When I promised the kiddo a quilt for her fourth(!) birthday, I envisioned something that had a lot of plaid, and some hearts in squares. Something kind of like this:
What I ended up making looks absolutely nothing like that, but I’m pretty pleased and I hope she will like it enough to have it on her bed, oh, forever.
I had signed up for a beginning quilting class through the town’s community education program, but the class was cancelled due to low enrollment, so I found one at the Cambridge Quilt Shop. “Start Quilting” met four times in four weeks, for two hours each time. The pattern, a four-patch with an accent and a “focus” and two borders, was set ahead of time (goodbye, hearts), but the instructor kindly helped me adjust the measurements so I could make a twin-sized quilt.
I love browsing fabrics. But while it’s easy to pick out ones I like, it is hard to put them together in a way that looks good. I tend to gravitate toward things that are low contrast, similar in color/tone/hue/value, and I may have overcorrected for that tendency here: the four-patch with its green, blue, and off-white works beautifully, but the bug jar fabric is definitely different. But it’s fireflies! And we call her Bug! So, that’s what I chose.
When I first started sewing, I was so impatient that I sometimes skipped one of the following crucial steps: wash, press, measure, cut, pin, sew, press. I actually didn’t even own an iron (I’ve bought one. I still don’t have an ironing board; I use a towel laid flat over the end of my sewing table, which works just fine for smaller pieces but is annoying for larger ones.) Pressing and pinning are absolutely necessary, and once I recognized how much easier they would make the later steps (and how much nicer the end result would be), I stopped resenting them and started appreciating them. Cutting the fabric is the most nerve-wracking part (in a mild sense of that term), and I should probably invest in a larger self-healing cutting mat and a 10″ square ruler. Maybe next time…
- Take pictures of your fabrics in black and white.
- Realize that it often won’t look like what you expected.
- Border(s) can tie the whole thing together and change the look.
- Look at it from farther away (put it up on a wall, or have someone hold it) so you get a different perspective.
- Wash fabrics before beginning. Flannel shrinks up more than regular quilting cottons; wash it at least once but ideally twice before using.
- Get to know your machine; always have your manual handy. Troubleshooting: When in doubt, rethread the needle. Change the needle if you think it might be bent (or just worn out). Wind a new bobbin.
- Just like working at a computer, take breaks to rest your eyes and back.
- Measure a quarter inch from your needle and mark it with masking tape.
- Sit directly in front of your machine.
- If you’re at a long table, set your machine up at one of the ends, which are sturdier (the middle might sag); this is also helpful once you are working with a bigger piece of fabric, because you’ll have more space to the left of your machine.
- When beginning to sew, hold the ends of the thread for the first several stitches so they don’t get pulled in and tangled in your sewing or into the machine.
- “Chain piecing” is your friend! If you have lots of little pieces to sew at the same time, you can feed them in one after another and snip them apart afterward, instead of stopping between each one.
- When pinning, pin each end first, then the middle, then the two middles you’ve created, etc.; if one piece is slightly longer than the other, put that piece on the bottom as you run it through the machine, and the feed dogs will help even it out (up to about 1/4″ depending on the length of your piece).
The “four-patch” (books and dandelions) and the green “accent” fabric, pieced and laid out next to the bug jar “focus” fabric.
The blocks on the wall for a good view, then pieced, then kid-tested.
For the inner border, I used one of the same fabrics from the four-patch. For the outer border, I used one very similar to the other four-patch fabric. Two strips can be joined to make a strip long enough for the border.
The finished quilt top and the back. Now, on to the quilt sandwich and the mystery of binding… Our whole class decided to add one more session so we could tackle these questions.
Meanwhile, I made a pillowcase, because come on narwhals AND puffins how could I not??
It should be noted that all of the photos here were taken at night, mostly in the basement, and so are not of the best quality. Everything looks better in person.